The Virginia Tech Hokies finally opened the 2020 season on Saturday with a 45-24 triumph over the NC State Wolfpack in Blacksburg.
It was a dominant performance from start to finish from the Hokies who jumped out to a big lead early and never looked back. Anytime NC State scored, Virginia Tech would have an answer.
The big story of the game was Virginia Tech being down 23 players due to COVID-19 positive tests and/or contact tracing due to the virus. Early last week, head coach Justin Fuente expressed concern over his team’s ability to field a complete team.
The Hokies were also without four coaches, including new defensive coordinator Justin Hamilton and linebackers coach Tracy Claeys.
Here are five takeaways from Virginia Tech’s impressive win.
Khalil Herbert is really good
The graduate transfer from Kansas started the game with a big carry and finished with a total of 104 yards rushing on just six attempts and a touchdown. Herbert also flashed in the passing game, catching two passes for 46 yards.
It was quite the debut performance.
Herbert was touted for his power and vision, however, on Saturday he showed another gear with his speed. Herbert was decisive in his cuts and his speed in the open field has everyone talking.
Tech knows what it has in Herbert and he could be in store for a big year.
Offensive line dominated
There was a lot of hype around Virginia Tech’s offensive line throughout the offseason. Most around the program knew this line could be really special because the group can go eight players deep without a noticeable drop-off in talent.
On Saturday, Tech’s offensive line was opening up holes the average sportswriter could run through. Christian Darrisaw, Lecitus Smith, Brock Hoffman, Bryan Hudson and Luke Tenuta were absolutely blowing NC State off the line of scrimmage.
The group also kept the quarterbacks relatively clean in the passing game, too.
Great block by Darrisaw. The O-Line came to play! Tech might rush for at least 200 yards tonight— Luther Maddy (@luthermaddy_) September 27, 2020
Luther was a bit off. The Hokies ran for over 300 yards on the ground.
This is a special unit that can keep Virginia Tech in games.
Quarterback play was terrific
Braxton Burmeister started his first career game at Virginia Tech and played well. Burmeister was accurate in his limited pass attempts and his speed is apparent in the running game. He helped the Hokies get out to a big lead before a hand injury sidelined him a bit in the first half.
Enter Quincy Patterson.
The redshirt sophomore from Chicago was outstanding in relief. Patterson completed four of six passes for 75 yards and two touchdowns, in addition to rushing for 47 yards and another score.
It’s safe to say few teams in America have a third quarterback like Patterson who can come in and not only preserve a lead, but build on it, too.
Remember, the Hokies were without starting quarterback Hendon Hooker. Hooker will presumably be back next week against Duke, but it must be satisfying for Fuente to know he has such depth and talent at the quarterback position.
It was a good night for the Virginia Tech quarterbacks.
Defense came to play
There were concerns about the defense coming into this game. First, no Bud Foster. How would Hamilton replace Foster in his first game?
Then, no Hamilton. Or Caleb Farley, who opted out before fall camp. No Devon Hunter or cornerback Jermaine Waller.
New cornerbacks coach Ryan Smith, who Fuente referenced after the game as a “star,” called defensive plays.
The Hokies held NC State’s talented running back group to 139 yards on the ground, including an average of 3.3 yards per attempt. Tech also picked off two passes and got to the quarterback on six occasions.
Newcomer Justus Reed, another talented graduate transfer, was dominant in his first game as a Hokie. He had five tackles and two sacks.
Freshman Keonta Jenkins, in his first game as a Hokie replacing Hunter, led Tech with eight tackles.
It was an outstanding group effort. This group will only continue to improve once Hamilton gets comfortable in his position and some of the young guys gain experience. Armani Chatman, Devin Taylor and Brion Murray all played well at corner for the Hokies and Waller should be back soon.
Fuente deserves major kudos
Over the past few years, a favorite pastime of many Virginia Tech fans is to criticize Fuente over.....well, everything. So, when he does an outstanding job he deserves praise, too.
Every team in college football is battling unique circumstances this fall. But the Hokies, who had been delayed twice due to COVID-19, were essentially in a tough spot all of last week. Fuente kept the ship steady, had everyone prepared and the entire staff came out with a great plan in Tech’s dominating win.
Fuente deflected praise after the game. He referenced the doctors, trainers, players and coaches for coming together to make this happen.
Over the last few seasons, Fuente has molded this team into his image and they believe in him. If Saturday night is any indication, the Hokies could have a special season.